We woke on the morning of 26th December 2012 to the news that our friends in Sabastiya had received an extremely unpleasant Christmas gift. We were shocked and angry to hear their report that the nearby illegal settlement of Shavei Shomron had begun discharging raw, untreated sewage onto Sabastiya’s farming land. Ten farmers were affected, they said, and many of their crops ruined.
For a community that relies heavily on agriculture, this situation threatens much more than just their sense of smell. Other websites reporting on the issue have dubbed it a “bio-war” against Sabastiya.
Ahmad Kayed, a Sabastiya resident, posted photos and video on our Facebook group, showing the sludge streaming through farmland. The sewage had seeped into the groundwater, contaminating the crops in the surrounding area. Beyond the immediate impact to their livelihoods the local farmers are also concerned that this is an intimidation tactic by the settlers in preparation for a further land-grab. “Settlers are trying to spoil as much as they can of Palestinian fields in an attempt to force farmers to desert their lands completely,” Ahmad told Ma’an news.
Almost two months later, the villagers’ protests have so far fallen on deaf ears and the sewage is still flowing freely. They have begun the process of taking legal action against the settlement but in the meantime there is nothing more they can do to protect their farms and livelihoods, other than to build channels to try and redirect as much of the waste as they can. They also fear reprisals and further aggression from the settlers should they win their legal case or bring media attention to focus on the situation.
It is this helplessness in the face of such provocation that makes living under occupation so difficult for the people of Sabastiya and those of all the other villages in the West Bank who face similar obstacles every day.
Hanwell Friends of Sabastiya contacted the British Consul in Jerusalem who said he would “look in to it,” but as yet the situation remains unchanged. We’ve also written to our MPs with our concerns that these acts of provocation and human rights violations are on the rise in the Occupied Territories and we encourage you to do the same. Until more international pressure is applied onto the Israeli authorities to intervene swiftly and firmly in such cases, the settlers can continue to act with impunity.
Report by Ella Ryan
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